Travelling Companions

“…Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.”
Luke 24:15 (NIV)

Rare is the hermit who delights to always be alone and shuns any company whatsoever. Almost all of us are wired for company. We enjoy being with people for the most part, and occasionally welcome brief times of solitude.

There is a generally recognized principle that we become like those we associate with. Hence we agree with parental concern about their children socializing with particular people who are known for deviant behaviour. We want only good role models to be friends for our family members.

An old expression goes something like: Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. It is very true that subtle though powerful influences from our friends are able to shape our thinking and behaviour.

The two disciples referred to in the context of our verse today had been dealt a severe blow when Jesus was publicly executed contrary to their expectations. They had hoped for a deliverer who would throw off the Roman occupational forces and re-establish Israel as an independent nation.

But their Deliverer was executed and so their hopes were dashed. Some of their women amazed them by saying they had seen a resurrected Christ but they were too upset to believe them.  Wonderfully, Jesus draws alongside the two heartbroken disciples and walked with them. It is not clearly explained just how it happened but they were prevented from recognizing Jesus.

Soon enough Jesus would reverse their sorrow and turn it into pure joy as He first explained to them what the Bible had prophesied about His first coming and the death He had to suffer for the sins of His people. He went on to point out that the resurrection was also spoken about in the Old Testament so they should not have been devastated by the events of the past three days.

Finally, after some possible hours, Jesus’ identity was revealed to them and they were full of excitement. This small scene in the lives of these two disciples is an illustration of what happens when a person is brought to faith in Jesus. God reveals the work of Jesus to the person through the Scriptures and opens their eyes to see the truth about Him.

All of us are on a journey through this life. We may have our lives torn apart as these disciples did when Jesus was arrested, tried and finally crucified. Everything may seem hopeless and we may feel that life cannot be put back together again. We need to have Jesus come alongside us and explain His mission to us.

Jesus came to rescue us from our own messed up lives. He came to give us abundant life. We all need to have Jesus as our travelling companion in life. Will you receive Him today and turn from your own way to follow His? Jesus invites those weary of life and its issues to walk with Him and He will give them grace to deal with whatever grief they have. (Matthew 11:27-30)

A Way Out?

“God is faithful…when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that
you can stand up under it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

I was asked by the doctor, when he ordered up an MRI for me, if I was claustrophobic. I scoffed at the suggestion and assured him that I would be fine. I recalled a previous time when I had an MRI and everything went well. It was like a walk in the park. This would be no different.

I went happily on my way to the appointment for the MRI blissfully unaware of what was in store for me. The technician was pleasant and explained everything to me. He also asked about claustrophobia. I assured him I was fine. He had me lie down on the table and put a device in my hand and told me to push the button if I wanted out of the machine.

He was able to insert my body as far as my waist when all of a sudden I panicked and pushed the button. I was overwhelmed with fear and found the confinement intolerable. I could not go on with the scan and made profuse apologies to the technician.

I left the hospital humiliated at my inability to proceed with the needed diagnostic work. What would the prescribing doctor think after I had assured him that I could have the procedure done without discomfort? I was in considerable distress at my inability to do what I had previously done readily. There was no way for me to “stand up under” my dilemma medically speaking.

Our verse today speaks about tough times of temptation without naming specifics. Any issue that you may have therefore can fit into this verse we have for today. Whatever you are working with in your personal situation allow the verse to speak to it.

You will notice that in our verse the writer does not say that God will remove the problem, rather that He will provide you with what is needed to endure the problem. It certainly is great when the problem is taken away and often it is—thank God. But some of us have to “hang in there” with the issue on the long term.

In such a situation we are given the grace to endure. The miraculous help is God-sent to lift us up when the problem seems to crush us down.

Bring this problem of yours to God and also this verse and ask for the promised “way out” so that you can endure it. He is faithful and will certainly make the escape so you endure with victory. Come to Him today and keep on praying until the blessed and needed help arrives to keep on in life. Never, never quit. The gracious Lord will provide for His own.

Where Is God When It Hurts?

“Jesus wept”
John 11:35

One of the most valuable lessons any of us learn in the school of hard knocks is how to advise and comfort others who are travelling the same road that we have. Those who have suffered in life have an authenticity and authority in speaking to the problem of pain that no mere academic can hope to achieve through simple “logic”.

When words of advice on how to address suffering come from a person who has never felt our sorrow, their comments may seem less than “authentic”. They speak theoretically because of a lack of experience in the matter we endure. But the fellow sufferer usually knows how and when to speak. They know how long to speak, and blessedly they know when to be silent.

A person who has suffered has authority in that they too have paid a price for what they have learned through pain and thus have the “right” to speak to the issue. It is a wise person who will listen through their pain to another who has travelled that same road of adversity. A person who has suffered has earned the right to speak about pain.

Something that has been vividly impressed on my mind in my darkest times is the fact that Jesus knows our hurts because He too has suffered and suffered more than any other person in history. Thus, Jesus speaks in an authentic voice and with authority (Hebrews 2:17-18; Mark 14:32-34; Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He also speaks with full authority simply because He is God.

In various places in Scripture we are told that because of His suffering, Jesus is able to comfort those who suffer. Our text for today refers to one occasion when Jesus wept. It was at the grave of a beloved friend named Lazarus. When Jesus entered the crowd of people weeping, saw the sorrow of the dead man’s sisters, He was overtaken by emotion and let the tears fall.

Never, never encourage people to stop weeping in the presence of the reason for their pain. God, in His mercy, has given us tears as an escape valve for suffering. When we read that Jesus wept we are to understand that He feels our sorrow and weeps with us. He wept for Himself at the death of His beloved friend and He wept in the presence of the sisters’ grief.

Where is God when it hurts? He is right by the side of the one who suffers. He consoles the bereaved, the ones in pain, those who are alone in this world, He comes and brings with Him all the power of His resurrection to strengthen and make able the one who is exhausted by life’s sad alternatives.

Jesus comes where He is invited. Sadly, He leaves alone those who prefer He depart. But wondrously He calls on each one who suffers to come and find rest in Him. Do you know this One Who wept with those who wept? Is He by your side right now? He awaits your invitation to enter your place of sorrow. Call on Him and do it today.

Never Alone

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Isaiah 46:3-4 (NIV)

“I write these things to you who believe
in the name of the Son of God 
so that you may know that you have eternal life”
1 John 5:13 (NIV)

He was a much trusted friend when we had a startling conversation. The godly man was greatly used by the Lord and loved by the Lord’s people. We were so close that I counted him as a brother. For some years he secretly struggled with the idea that the Lord had abandoned him. He had gone to several counsellors for help but did not get any. I was his last hope for guidance.

I quietly listened until he was done sharing his spiritual struggles. During his time talking to me, I made a silent but fervent prayer to the Lord for wisdom to help this wonderful man find assurance of his salvation.

First I asked him if he had and unconfessed sin in his life. He answered “No.” Then I took him to several precious promises such as Isaiah 46:3-4. He said he believed the promises but also said they did not apply to him. Then I turned him to 1 John 5:13 and explained that John was writing to people exactly like him who believed Jesus died for sinners and forgives all who confess their sins but lack assurance their prayers for forgiveness have been answered.

Then I took him through the various characteristics of people who are Christians as described in 1 John and asked him if his life could fit each description of a believer. Finally, his face lit up and he recognized the work of the Holy Spirit shaping him into the image of Christ.

Reader are you like my friend? Or do you know a believer who lacks assurance of salvation? May the story of my friend encourage you to believe that the promises really apply to you or to your friend. May you see yourself in 1 John and come to “know that you have eternal life.”

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trial your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.”

“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”

“Brother Gordon, it is time I went home.”

“I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing
at the right hand of God.”
Acts 7:56 (NIV)

I learned about the man from his daughter whom I knew. She had asked us to pray for him as he was in 4th stage liver cancer and in need of the grace of God. We most willingly prayed for not only the man but his entire family.

It seemed too early for him to leave us as he was not even a senior citizen. Illness had cut short his working life. He had worked hard and willingly to help give his younger brothers the opportunity to go to university and get ahead in life in a way he denied himself on their behalf.

One day I was speaking to his daughter and inquiring about how her father was doing. In the course of the conversation I asked her if anyone was visiting him to pray and read his beloved Bible to him? She sadly answered that her father, who had done so much visitation of the sick and needy in his day, was now left to fend for himself in his time of need.

I then asked her if she would let him know that I would be privileged to visit with him and share from the Scriptures. She did and soon I was driving to his home for a visit. While I had not met the man until this time, I certainly had heard about how much he had done to encourage the downhearted, how he was the one to shovel the snow at his church early on snowy Sunday mornings before the others arrived, and so on. In many ways behind the scenes he was the tower of strength for others.

When I arrived I was greeted warmly by his gracious wife and escorted to his sunroom where he was seated. We greeted each other and as the conversation progressed I soon felt I was with a long lost friend. Little did I know that I was in for many visits in the home to enjoy the society of a genuine saint of God. We sang God’s praise from the little black hymnal used by his group of churches, I always read from the Bible, spoke on the verses read and we prayed together.

The day before he passed I was with him alone and he said to me, “Brother Gordon it is time I went home.” I assured him that I agreed with him. I spoke of how the angels would come right into his bedroom and greet him with encouraging words. I told him that the angels would strengthen him for the journey home just as Jesus was strengthened by the angel in Gethsemane before He died on the cross (Luke 22:43).

As simply as possible, I made it clear from the Bible how no child of God dies alone. He would be escorted to heaven just as the poor man Lazarus was in Luke 16:22. I suggested that he might even see Jesus as he was leaving this life in the same way Stephen did as recorded in our verse for today. He was much comforted and certainly at peace.

Is this your hope when you come to leave this life? Would you be as confident as my friend described above? If not, why not? He had a life full of kindness and grace towards others but he knew his only hope of entrance to heaven was by believing in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Jesus calls all of us to come to Him and receive eternal life as a gift. We all are too poor to buy His favour but He offers it without price. Come and come now.